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A wildlife rehabilitator is typically a volunteer who takes injured or baby native animals into her home, where she cares for the animals until they are strong enough to be released into the wild. In many countries, including the United States and Australia, a person who wants this job must take a written test to demonstrate knowledge about caring for wildlife, which results in a permit. When someone is officially registered as a wildlife rehabilitator, her name and telephone number are publicly listed in a directory, so that anyone who finds an abandoned or injured animal can bring the animal in for help.
A wildlife rehabilitator rarely has medical or veterinary experience, and instead focuses on the day-to-day care of an animal. For instance, he might bottle feed a baby animal several times a day. Some injured animals are brought to a veterinarian for treatment; however, if it appears that the animal will not be able to return to the wild after a period of rehabilitation, the animal will likely be humanely euthanized.
A wildlife rehabilitator will generally work from her own home, though some nonprofit centers specialize in treating injured wildlife. He or she may have a particular specialty. Some focus on reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, while others may specialize in caring for birds. He or she may deal with all sorts of animals, from squirrels to owls to frogs. In countries like Australia, the rehabilitator might take in baby possums, wombats, or kangaroos.
If you think you'd like to become a wildlife rehabilitator, the first step is to volunteer with a trained rehabilitator or at a licensed wildlife center, to see what is involved in the job and if it's really for you. This line of work is rarely paid, and required a high level of dedication — once you are licensed, you may be called at all hours of the day to help with wildlife situations. You must also be aware that these animals are not pets — your responsibility is to prepare them for release back into the wild. It is a difficult job, as some animals will not survive, no matter how much help you give them. If you'd still like to become a wildlife rehabilitator, though, it can be a very rewarding job.